We had an interesting discussion about why fewer students are coming to, particularly from Japan, to study in the United States, and one of the responses I got from our officials from conversations with parents here is that they're actually scared. They think they're not safe in the United States and so they don't come.
[Kerry] noted Japan's restrictive gun laws – which prevent private ownership of nearly all firearms, including handguns – and said the country was safer "where people are not running around with guns."
CNN also noted an Institute of International Education (IIE) report enumerating the decline in students from Japan coming to the United States:
In 2011, Japan sent 21,290 students to study in the United States, making it the seventh largest country of origin for international scholars. That was down 14% from the previous year, according to numbers from the Institute of International Education.
Figures have shown international study is down markedly among Japanese students to all destinations, including the United States. Experts have attributed the decline to Japan's low birthrate, the expense of foreign study in a poor economy, and a desire among Japanese young people to remain at home rather than venture to other countries.
What neither Kerry nor CNN noted, however, were the other statistics reported by the IIE (via Bloomberg):
The total number of international students in the U.S. climbed 4.7 percent in the 2010-2011 academic year to 723,277, with the fastest growth coming from China [23 percent increase to 157,558] and Saudi Arabia, which sent 22,704 students, a 44 percent increase.
The increase from China is a stark contrast to Japan's decrease. Both Asian countries have restrictive gun laws, yet students in China do not seem to harbor the same anxieties about gun violence that Kerry attributes to those in Japan.
An even broader measure of foreigners attitudes, the Japanese in particular, towards travel to and residence in the United States can be gleaned from a July 2012 report issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) [emphasis added]:
During 2011, there were 159 million nonimmigrant admissions to the United States according to DHS work-load estimates. These admissions included tourists and business travelers from Canada, Mexican nationals with Border Crossing Cards, and I-94 admissions. I-94 admissions accounted for 33 percent (53.1 million) of the total admissions (see Figure 1). The majority (87 percent) of I-94 admissions were temporary visitors for business and pleasure, while 6.4 percent were temporary workers and families and 3.4 percent were students. The leading countries of citizenship for I-94 admissions were Mexico, the United Kingdom, and Japan.
Although the DHS report says that some of the increase can be attributed to the way entries and re-entries by the same individual are counted, by almost any measure in this DHS report, visitors to the United States are on the rise. Secretary Kerry's remarks on gun violence come at a time the Obama administration and its supporters are increasing pressure on Congress to pass gun control legislation. A more comprehensive look at the facts behind Kerry's remarks does not bolster the administration's case as well as the secretary may have intended.
Note: I had this post ready to publish last night, but Glenn Kestler, Fact Checker Extraordinaire at the Washington Post, beat me to it this morning.